The Vatican

Vatican City

“When Michelangelo finished the painting of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, he spent the rest of his life trying to remove the paint that had poured into his sleeve.”
Francois Cavanna

I had 1,5 days in Vatican City and here’s what I learned:
1) Stay away from everyone trying to sell you something on the way to the museums
2) Stay away from everyone trying to sell you something on the way to Vatican City itself
3) Stay away from everyone trying to sell you anything at all
4) Buy access to the museums and the Sistine Chapel online to walk right passed the queue (and AVOID everyone trying to sell you a guided tour on your way to the museums)
5) There’s a combo ticket that covers the museums and the Sistine Chapel, but St. Peter’s Basilica is FREE
6) The line for St. Peter’s Basilica looks like something straight out of hell, but I got in line anyway and it goes by really fast once you’ve started. PRO TIP: Get in line and go see the basilica.
7) Seriously, the line was across the entire space of St. Peter’s Square, but I felt like I was in line for just 30 minutes (it might have been as much as an hour, but it didn’t feel that long, I was constantly moving)
8) Inside St. Peter’s Basilica you get to see a dead guy
9) If you want to see just Vatican City (incl. the museums) 1,5 days is more than enough (unless you’re an art historian or art student) – Find a place to stay that’s close to Vatican City though.
10) December is an awesome time to visit VC, the weather was nice and the number of tourists (while still high) was manageable
11) The Leonardo Express train takes 30 minutes to get to Fiumicino Airport from Termini, Rome and is super simple. Tickets can be bought inside Termini terminal on machines that are easy to use. Avoid everyone trying to sell you additional tickets or taxi rides. Jesus, the number of con artists and people pushing to sell you sh*t in Rome(!)
12) Seeing Vatican City ALSO because you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons is really cool, don’t listen to the philistines who say otherwise 😉

My trip to Vatican City was lovely and I had a great time (besides feeling faint and having to lie down on the flight home, but airspace doesn’t count). I lucked out on the weather with sunshine both days and temperatures that let me walk around without a jacket. My personal highlights where The Gallery of Maps (Vatican Museums) and Castel sant’Angelo (10 min walk away from St. Peter’s Square and with a history of its own, se furthest below). I’m not religious at all, but I love art, architecture and history and Vatican City has an enormous amount of it collected in a fairly small space.

“The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago: the sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons was discovered 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture of Laocoön and his sons on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.”

The fantastic art collection you can see today has been both commissioned and collected by various popes and glergymen over the centuries, so you find the “hits” like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness, but in between the greats you have breathtaking pieces you’ve never even heard of (or maybe that’s just me, but I paused for a full 15 minutes by “The Massacre of the Innocent”-tapestry and spent an inordinate amount of time in the Egyptian part of the museum (no suprise there #Hatshepsut) 😉

I stayed at Salotto Vaticano, 5 minute walk to St. Peter’s Square. Clean rooms, very nice mother/daughter team running it (they also live on site). You get a cupon for breakfast at the baker’s right up the street every day too (basically a croissant and coffee, but it’s fresh and tasty).

Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is also called the “mausoleum of Hadrian” and held the ashes of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, his wife Sabina and their adopted son Lucius. The angel figure at the top looks ominous to say the least with his sword pointing downward toward the people, but it is in fact a recreation of the legend that says the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, thus lending the castle its present name (Castle of the Holy Angel). I was fascinated with this statue, seeing it in Angels and Demons, and I was not in the least disappointed seeing it in real life. An extra bonus to the marvellous view of Rome you get from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Vatican Museums

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